Billionaire businessman Kimani Rugendo is locked in a court battle with a logistics firm that wants his flagship business Kevian Limited, the maker of Afia and Pick N’ Peel juices, wound up over a Sh2.8 million debt.
Hipora Business Solutions East Africa, which supplies staff to different companies to check on theft by customers and employees, is demanding the amount plus interest from Mr Rugendo for payment of eight workers who were stationed to control movement of goods in and out of his three warehouses.
In an affidavit filed in court, John Wanjohi – one of Hipora’s owners – claims that Mr Rugendo has failed to honour the payment in line with a contract entered into in August 2015 and two demand letters sent in May and June this year.
Hipora’s eight employees – three system controllers and five double checkers – were stationed at Ngong Road, Thika, and at the old Castle Brewing, earning monthly salaries of Sh52,000 and Sh42,500 respectively.
“I am aware that…Kevian Limited has a debt due to the petitioner (Hipora) on account of breach of contract and that the company is insolvent and unable to pay its debts,” Mr Wanjohi states in his affidavit dated October 24, 2017.
“Your petitioner therefore humbly prays that Kevian be wound up by the court…”
Mr Rugendo, who also manufacturers industrial equipment and military regalia, has however slapped Hipora with a counterclaim, claiming its employee was involved in a theft at his Thika premises, a matter he says is still in court.
The politician-turned businessman, in his affidavit, says that on January 7, 2017 thieves working in cahoots with security guards and “one of Hipora’s staff members”, broke into his warehouse and carted away goods worth Sh19.7 million.
The Hipora staffer, Mr Rugendo further claims, used stolen delivery notes from his employer “for purposes of removing the company’s goods from the warehouse in a clear case of theft.”
Based on this alleged theft, Kevian’s lawyers responded to Hipora’s May 2017 demand letter, disputing the payment demand of Sh2.8 million and issuing their own counterclaim of Sh19.7 million.
Mr Rugendo, in his filings, pleaded with the court not to allow the logistics firm to advertise the insolvency petition in newspapers as it had the potential of “damaging the company’s character, credit, goodwill and reputation.”
“The company is not insolvent as alleged by the petitioner and it does hold assets, which far much exceed the petitioner’s claim. The petition is a clear abuse of office,” the businessman says.
“The orders sought cannot be granted as the debt is disputed and the company has a legitimate counter claim against the petitioner.”
Hipora, however, advertised the petition in Thursday’s newspapers, notifying parties wishing to be heard on the matter that the next hearing is slated for January 22.
Mr Wanjohi started Hipora together with a South African friend, Tshepo Monnanyana, with the aim of helping retailers reduce losses through staff and customer theft.
The firm, which was started in 2009, has over 700 employees whom it sends to various retailers.
Over the years, Hipora’s long client list has included Nakumatt Supermarkets, Bidco, Choppies, East Matt, Easy E Matt, and Maathai Supermarket among others.